BY DUNCAN MANSFIELD
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Anti-nuclear activism may be rising as the Watts Bar Nuclear Plant, the only reactor still under construction in this country, nears fuel loading.
In a demonstration ranking with the arrest of more than 50 protesters at the Spring City plant site in July 1994, two grandmotherly activists were forcibly removed Aug. 30 from a Tennessee Valley Authority board meeting.
TVA chairman Craven Crowell, who ordered the women removed when they wouldn't leave the rostrum, later called the incident "very disturbing" and said he was "sorry about it."
But he said, "It was clear to me that it was a deliberate effort to disrupt the meeting."
Though no more than a dozen anti-nuclear activists were in the audience, the demonstration was unusual for a typically staid TVA board meeting.
The rising activism parallels the progression of the long-delayed Watts Bar Nuclear Plant. TVA hopes to win Nuclear Regulatory Commission approval to load fuel in the Spring City reactor in October, some 22 years after construction began.
Ten activists later addressed the board during a formal public listening session. They worried about the health risks from the reactor, its safety and design and whether TVA is more concerned with new generating capacity than conservation.
During the business meeting, TVA chief financial officer David Smith presented budget figures for fiscal 1996 supporting a previously announced decision to extend a freeze on electric rates a ninth consecutive year.
TVA projects revenues from power sales will rise to $5.5 billion in fiscal 1996, up from $5.3 billion this fiscal year. Fuel costs will be down slightly and operating costs up, both reflecting the impact of adding the Watts Bar reactor and restoring service at the Browns Ferry Unit 3 reactor next year.
Generating capacity is expected to rise with the new reactors -- up more than 2,000 megawatts to 27,811 megawatts by next summer.
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